Just How Cheap is Cloud Backup?

I believe in the Computer Backup Rule of Three as written about by Scott Hanselman.  There are a million ways to backup your system, and I’m not going to get into exactly how I back up my family’s precious photos, videos and music. Instead, I am going to share something that recently made the frugal me very happy.

I’ve had a Microsoft Windows Home Server (now discontinued) for a couple of years. Basically it’s a mini server that keeps all our PCs backed up, acts as a file share, and does a bunch of other stuff for us. It’s home to all our shared documents, music, photos and videos. It’s probably the thing I’d grab if the house were on fire (after the family is safe, of course!). So the order would be (1) family (2) server (3) my Taylor guitar. And this remote control. That’s all I need.

I’ve been backing up our files to “the cloud” for a couple of years. I wanted an offsite backup, and I’m too lazy to find somewhere outside the home to swap a hard drive full of all our precious files every week or two.

I use a product from CloudBerry Lab that is a backup add-in for the Windows Home Server. All it does is copy files that we keep on the server up to Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3). That’s my offsite backup. Let Amazon take all my money.

I’ve been backing up 160GB of files this way, and paying Amazon’s going rate of around $20/month for the privilege. There are probably cheaper ways to stuff 160GB into the cloud, but this was easy and it just works.

Then Amazon introduced Amazon Glacier.

Amazon Glacier is an extremely low-cost storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup. In order to keep costs low, Amazon Glacier is optimized for data that is infrequently accessed and for which retrieval times of several hours are suitable. With Amazon Glacier, customers can reliably store large or small amounts of data for as little as $0.01 per gigabyte per month, a significant savings compared to on-premises solutions.

I migrated all our files to Glacier, and what was previously a $20/month charge is now … wait for it … $1.60/month.

What else can I back up?!

Typing Test!

I’ve sometimes wondered whether I could successfully switch from a QWERTY to DVORAK keyboard layout and increase my typing speed. I’ve always been a fairly fast typist, thanks to the 1980’s NJ public school system and a fleet of IBM Selectrics.

I found this typing speed testonline and decided to give it a whirl.

The Results!

Test 1: 82 WPM with one error (damn!)

Test 2: 92 WPM with no errors

Test 3: 94 WPM with no errors.

Granted, this was letters only, no numbers.  I was absent the day in typing class when we covered numbers, and I swear I’ve never recovered.

Typing test with letters and numbers: 67 WPM. Ouchie.

Verizon’s LTE Coverage Map: Intentionally Misleading?

I’m considering switching cell carriers from Sprint to Verizon. Sprint “4G” (WiMax) simply doesn’t work where we live, and I’m tired of paying extra for service that doesn’t work. Plus, that Samsung Galaxy Nexus is enticing.

So I’m checking the Verizon LTE coverage map to see whether we’ll get LTE.  Here’s a partial screenshot:


Comparing the colors in the map to those in the legend, I honestly can’t tell which red is which, and neither can my wife.  I’ve seen enough optical illusions from psychology textbooks to know better than to trust my own eyes when comparing colors this close.

Who picked the colors for this map? Three shades of red? Seriously?! If not for Hanlon’s razor, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity,” I’d assume this was intentional.

Luckily, I’m a nerd.  I grabbed a screenshot, pasted it into an image editor, used the color dropper, and compared RGB values.

Long story short – the map color does not exactly match any of the colors in the legend.

Nice one, Big Red.

So long Vonage, hello Ooma

I’ve been using Vonage for home telephone service since October 2004.  That’s 34.85 Internet Years (using a multiplier of 4.7 as justified in the first Google result for the search “internet years” ).  That’s hella long.

Even though my wife and I both have cell phones (and Google Voice, and Skype, and a million other ways of communicating), we still like having a house phone.  The primary reasons are:

  • We can scatter cordless phones throughout the house, so one is always nearby if someone calls.
  • The speaker phone quality is better on our cordless house phones than our cell phones.
  • We can use them as intercoms, which has come in handy.
  • VOIP quality beats cell phone quality, and the conversation-killing transmission delay is less perceptible with the VOIP phone.

Today, my $19.99/month minimalist Vonage plan, due to taxes and other random and inexplicable fees, is actually costing me $30.44/month, or $365.28/year.  In my opinion, that’s too much money for a service we barely ever use. So I went shopping.

There were lots of options:

  • Phone service from Comcast (too expensive)
  • Running my own Asterisk PBX (too much effort)
  • The “As seen on TV” Magic Jack (requires an “always on” PC and reviews are so-so)
  • NetTalk
  • Ooma
  • And many other also-rans.

I did some quick review hunting, polled some friends, and picked Ooma. Costco was running a special bundle which included the WiFi dongle for free with an Ooma Telo model.  I bit.

With Ooma, you buy the device once, then just pay the telco taxes.  Using Ooma’s online tax calculator, I determined my ongoing monthly bill would be $4.01.

Total cost: $212.49 delivered, plus a $39.99 charge to port my existing Vonage number to Ooma.

Montly cost: If I figure a 3-year amortization of the initial outlay, and also assume that Ooma stays in business the next three years, the monthly cost over three years is:

(($212.49 + $39.99)/36) + $4.01 = $7.01 + $4.01 = $11.02/month.

Over three years, assuming the taxes remain constant, Ooma will cost us $396.84.  Vonage would cost us $1095.84.  That’s a savings of $699.

I wish I’d done it sooner.